Ex-Pats: Melville Teases its New Album with its Annual Pilgrimage Back to Jefferson
Ryan Jacobs grew up in Grants Pass, then did as Southern Oregon youth are wont to do and followed the ol’ dusty freeway up to Portland. But unlike so many that are glad to forget their humble beginnings, he and his indie-rock band, Melville, are big fans of coming back to Southern Oregon for gigs, saying that it’s always a blast. Melville has played several big draw shows at Brickroom, and even an opening slot at Britt. The band will return again on Saturday, June 3, and Jacobs took the time to answer a few questions to preview the show.
RVM: You have a new album coming out this summer, The New Zero. How do you feel the band has evolved from Marquette in 2013, to this album four years later?
RJ: I’d say the most obvious change is that Maquette definitely had a more alt-country feel and a darker hue to it. The New Zero doesn’t shy away from darker moments, but I feel it juxtaposes some of those heavier moments against a distinctly more pop/rock sound with more of a focus on melody and hooks. There was a lot more attention paid to making an album with layers and the right sounds so that hopefully people will get something different with every listen. I feel that goal was accomplished and I’m quite proud of that.
RVM: A lot of your sound is based more on nuance and subtlety than flash or chops. Is it more challenging to write less, or to keep it engaging over time?
RJ: I’ve always been a bit more focused on songwriting, personally. The other guys in Melville enjoy songwriting as well, but are more attracted to virtuosity than myself, in part I imagine because they’re fantastic musicians and technically proficient players. I think we’re finding a healthy balance where we inform each others’ perspectives in both directions. That said, I’ve always subscribed to the “play the song, not the instrument mantra,” which is often attributed to David Crosby I believe. Music is inherently subjective and in that sense, to me, flash or chops are great but can often come across at times as rigid, mathematical, calculated or too self-aware. There seems to be less mysticism in technicality than with songwriting and I enjoy not knowing what the “correct” move to make is or what might come next in the process.
For me, I think the appeal of songwriting has to do with the fact there’s no finality to it; you can always get better and always do/discover something new. I got my degree in Romance Languages and went on to learn German as well in my seven years in Europe and I think learning languages is a lot like songwriting in that regard. No matter how much you know or have learned, there’s always a word you’ve yet to encounter, or an idiom you’ve yet to be exposed to. I, personally, find a lot of comfort in that. There’s a freedom in there not being a gold standard of perfection because you can always improve. I think that most things that get labeled as “mistakes” are merely blind spots we’ve yet to open ourselves up to. It can certainly be frightening to be vulnerable, and making mistakes certainly produces that feeling, but it’s necessary. In my opinion, most mistakes are malleable, inaction is not. Inaction is static.
RVM: What’s on the radar for you?
RJ: We’ve got The New Zero coming out August 18. We’ll be touring the record following the release and will definitely be coming back to the area! In addition to what’s on this new album, we’ve got around seven or so new tracks ready for our next album, so you’ll have to come to our live show to hear those too!
9 pm Sat., June
Brickroom, 35 N. Main St., Ashland